Ted Hughes – The Thought Fox

I imagine this midnight moment’s forest: 
Something else is alive 
Beside the clock’s loneliness 
And this blank page where my fingers move. 
 

Through the window I see no star: 
Something more near 

Though deeper within darkness 
Is entering the loneliness: 

Cold, delicately as the dark snow, 
A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf; 
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now 

Sets neat prints into the snow 
Between trees, and warily a lame 
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow 
Of a body that is bold to come 

Across clearings, an eye,

A widening deepening greenness, 
Brilliantly, concentratedly, 
Coming about its own business 

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox 

It enters the dark hole of the head. 

The window is starless still; the clock ticks, 

The page is printed. 


Ted Hughes present the writer’s thought process in his poem ‘The thought-fox’. He symbolises the fox to step by step illustrate how a writer’s mind works, where he observes the fox and notes its gradual pace of movements and deems it analogous to how the thought process works, thus labelling the fox as the ‘thought fox’.

In the first quatrain Hughes acknowledges the existence of the thought fox in the ‘midnight moment’s forest’, where the midnight moment’s forest stands for the human mind. The fox existing in this forest is suggestive of the existence of an idea in Hughes’ mind. Hughes assigns this idea as ‘something’ which presents how this idea is there in his mind but Hughes cannot asses it because it isn’t explicit. The poet accounts his surrounding setting, personifying the clock as lonely to present his tranquil surrounding as well as his empty mind, and then zooms into the ‘blank page’ where his fingers are lingering on to present how he was waiting for the thought fox to arrive. The poet then transfers the camera to focus on the outside scenery where he sees no star, which is also a representation of his mind as his mind stands similar to the dark blank night sky. Suddenly the poet senses something lurking in the darkness, although it is still oblique in its form.

In the third quatrain, the poet can see certain features of the fox which make a gradual entrance, such as its nose and eyes. He finds the fox’s entrance as ‘cold’ and ‘delicate’. The fox’s slow pace into revealing itself is similar to the gradual pace of the idea being created in the writer’s mind. Hughes’ repetition of the word ‘now’ in the third quatrain’s last line shows the excitement of Hughes as he senses the gradual appearance of the idea in his head. In the next quatrain the ‘thought fox’ reveal parts of its body, and the poet becomes aware of its surrounding which presents how the idea slowly clarifies itself with other details. In the fifth stanza, Hughes is able to clearly note down the fox’s eyes and he presents the fox in much greater detail. Finally, the fox makes discloses itself, and Hughes finishes his poem by transferring the setting from the ‘midnight moment’s forest’ back to his room, where in the last couplet we find the setting to be in the same position, except for the previously blank page which is ‘printed’.

Hughes designs his poem in a strict form of six quatrains, but follows different rhyming schemes. Certain adjectives in the description of the fox’s movement highlights the movement of the idea in the writer’s mind, which starts of as ‘cold, delicately’ to ‘widening deepening’ and ‘brilliantly, concentratedly’. Hughes accentuates the graceful and gradual movement to the powerful and detailed construction of the idea in his mind with these adjectives. ‘Darkness’ and ‘loneliness’ are constantly repeated to present the blank mind of Hughes before the thought fox made its entrance. Hughes contrasts this with the ‘greenness’ of the fox’s eyes, where the contrast in colours represent the changing from the blank mind to when Hughes finally finds the idea in his head.

‘The Thought Fox’ produces a beautiful representation of the human mind which encompasses ideas that take the form of a fox when clarifying itself. Hughes compares the gracefulness of the fox to the human mind, and brings out the steps of capturing the idea to write poetry. In a very neatly organised form, Hughes presents a compelling read with vivid imagery and an excellent syntax.

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